The Lincoln High School boys’ basketball team won 20 games for a second consecutive season a year ago, advancing all the way to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II semifinals before falling to Holmdel, finishing their season with a stellar 20-7 record.
Lions head coach Bill Zasowski enters his fifth season having the tough task of trying to rebuild the Lions’ roster and keep the program as competitive as it always has been.
“We only have two kids back from last year on the roster,” Zasowski said. “We have a couple of kids who played football who are playing basketball this year for the first time. We have a couple of freshmen who we’re trying to bring up to speed. But we haven’t had the time to get kids ready.”
With the new restrictions placed upon programs due to the NJSIAA’s stance on the COVID-19 crisis, all teams were given only two weeks to prepare.
“It’s hard to get the kids ready in a two-week span,” Zasowski said. “But the potential to be pretty good is there. That is, if they’re ready to go when the lights go on.”
The lights will go on Tuesday at Lincoln when the Tigers of Memorial come calling.
“The schedule doesn’t help us either,” Zasowski said. “We play Memorial, then [St. Peter’s] Prep, then Hudson Catholic, then Union City back-to-back-to-back. We’re going to get tested right away and see where we are.”
Zasowski said that the schedule is going to force the young Lions to mature right before his eyes.
“That’s the positive of it,” Zasowski said. “We have a number of young players who need to get accustomed to varsity basketball.”
One player who doesn’t need to get accustomed to the rough-and-tumble world of Hudson County hoops is senior forward Toriano Mumford.
The 6-foot-4 Mumford was one of the top performers in Hudson County a year ago, averaging 16.5 points and seven rebounds per game. Mumford was an All-Hudson County Third Team selection last year.
Zasowski said that Mumford has greatly improved since last year.
“His shooting range has gotten so much better,” Zasowski said. “He just spent his free time shooting and shooting. I don’t mind him shooting threes [3-point field goals] anymore. He does everything well. He can guard all positions on the floor. He’s a match-up problem for most teams. He has a chance to be the guy for us this year. He’s proven he can do everything. He can drive the ball and get to the free throw line. He should have a very good senior year.”
Mumford should be a scholarship recipient with the proper test scores and grades.
Another standout performer is junior point guard Wendell Moreland. The 6-foot-1 Moreland has enjoyed a lot of success in two years and also has received a ton of experience.
“There aren’t a lot of point guards who have won 42 games over their first two years of high school,” Zasowski said. “He’s seen everything and anything that can get thrown at him. He has the ability to shoot the ball and get to the rim. I don’t have to worry about his pace. He knows what it takes to win. He’s an upperclassman now, so can he be a vocal leader? I think he can.”
Micah Jones is a 5-foot-10 sophomore who saw limited varsity action last year.
“He’s a two-guard,” Zasowski said of the shooting guard Jones. “He may have the best shooting stroke of anyone on the team. He has a nice, smooth release. He also can finish around the rim. He really likes to play and that’s a good thing.”
Junior Quincy Scott-McKoy is a 6-foot-2 forward who plays bigger than his size.
“He’s a football kid who played some AAU basketball, but never came out to play for us,” Zasowski said. “He’s extremely coachable. He runs the floor well and gets his hands on the ball a lot. He’s a sponge, just trying to pick up what we do.”
Junior Zion Monroe-Smith is a 6-foot-2 junior forward who has transferred to Lincoln from cross-city rival Snyder.
“He played football for us this year and did well,” Zasowski said. He’s a good athlete who plays as hard as he could play. He gets to the rim as well. He’s also extremely coachable.”
Freshman Savior Maxwell will get the chance to play varsity right away.
“I think he has the ability to be very good,” Zasowski said of the 6-foot-2 forward Maxwell. “He’s long and lanky. He comes in with a skill set that is pretty good. He just has to push himself a little through some adversity and he’ll be fine. He has a chance to get some quality minutes for us.”
Jamiel “Oatmeal” Lawrence is a 6-foot-1 senior guard who was the quarterback on the Lions’ football team in the fall.
“He’s a real nice kid who has fit in well,” Zasowski said. “I wish we had him for four years. He shoots the ball pretty well.”
Junior Kyle Hargrove is a 6-foot-1 forward who is battling for playing time.
“I think the positive side of having a young team is that we’re going to have two and three years to teach them things,” Zasowski said. “I think that leads to long term success.”
Whether that leads to success in the 15-game local schedule remains to be seen. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com